Scenes Spotlight: Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 in Sense & Sensibility

Today’s the Bard’s 448’s birthday!

I didn’t realize it until Garrison Keillor, the host of NPR Writer’s Almanac, talked about it this afternoon on my way home from work. At the end of the segment, Mr. Keillor read one of William Shakespeare‘s most famous love sonnets published in 1609: Sonnet 116

Of course it was such a delight as that sonnet was used in my favorite film of all time, Sense and Sensibility. In fact, since I regretfully wasn’t taught Shakespeare back in high school, that is perhaps my introduction to this beautiful sonnet that talks about what LOVE is [or supposed to be], and what LOVE is not.

The sonnet appears twice in the Ang Lee film, though it wasn’t part of the Jane Austen’s novel. Emma Thompson who deservedly won an Oscar for the screenplay must have been a fan of this particular poem, and why not, it’s so beautiful and poignant.

The first instance the sonnet was spoken was in this scene when Willoughby asked Marianne what her favorite sonnet was… and of course, as soon as he started reciting it, she was done for.


The second time it’s spoken, the circumstances between the two has changed dramatically… it’s such an emotionally-charged scene that is filled with deep pathos of a young woman mourning the loss of her first love…


So whether or not his intention was honorable in the beginning, Willoughby’s love is not exactly ‘an ever-fixed mark.’ Winslet’s rendition of the sonnet here is so heart-wrenching… it’s as if she could barely notice the soaking-rain and though she should’ve been shivering in the cold, the stormy weather still can’t drown out the bitterness of Willoughby’s betrayal.

This is just one of the reasons I love this movie so much… the use of the sonnet is so fitting, so brilliant and so iconic that I think I’d forever associate this sonnet with this film. It goes to show just how timeless Shakespeare’s work really is.


Thoughts on this movie? Feel free to share YOUR favorite Shakespeare-related work in movies.